FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A fumble by Packers RB Aaron Jones on the first play of the fourth quarter took away Green Bay's best chance to take the lead in the game, and the Packers never recovered, falling to the Patriots, 31-17, on Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.
With the score tied at 17 and the Packers driving to open the fourth quarter, Jones fumbled inside the New England 30-yard line. The Patriots then scored touchdowns on their next two possessions – using a trick play to set up the first score – and pulled away to knock the Packers back under .500 at 3-4-1. The Patriots improved to 7-2.
In the battle of top-flight QBs, neither was spectacular by any means, but Tom Brady was more efficient. He finished 22-of-35 for 294 yards with one TD and a 99.0 passer rating. Aaron Rodgers was 24-of-43 for 259 yards with two TDs and an 89.2 rating.
Makeshift RB Cordarrelle Patterson ran 11 times for 61 yards and a score, while RB James White added 12 carries for 31 yards and two TDs. WR Josh Gordon was Brady's top target with five catches for 130 yards and a score. White added six catches for 72 yards, and WR Julian Edelman had six catches for 71 yards, plus two rushes for 28 yards and a 37-yard pass on the trick play.
For the Packers, Jones had 14 carries for 76 yards, while rookie WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling had three catches for 101 yards. TE Jimmy Graham added four grabs for 55 yards and a TD, with WR Davante Adams getting six catches for 40 yards and a score.
Here's a recap of all the action:
Patriots lead Packers 7-3 after one
The Patriots got the ball first and marched right down the field in their no-huddle offense.
Starting from their own 41 thanks to a good kickoff return by WR Cordarrelle Patterson and a penalty on the Packers, the Patriots used RB James White plenty. He ran twice for 10 yards, caught three passes (with two receptions by WR Phillip Dorsett mixed in), and then finished the drive with an 8-yard touchdown run.
The Packers came right back with a strong drive. RB Aaron Jones carried four times for 18 yards and caught a short pass to convert on third-and-2. TE Jimmy Graham caught two passes for 21 yards, and WR Randall Cobb added three catches for 15. But the drive stalled in the red zone, and K Mason Crosby was good from 29 yards out to make it 7-3 with 5:05 left in the quarter.
The Patriots started their next drive with a 16-yard pass to WR Julian Edelman, but the Packers' defense went three-and-out after that. CB Jaire Alexander appeared to get a hand in to help break up a slant to Edelman, and then DL Mike Daniels sacked QB Tom Brady on third down as part of a three-man rush. P Ryan Allen's 53-yard punt put the Packers on their own 13.
The Packers got going again on a 5-yard pass to WR Davante Adams and a pair of runs by RB Jamaal Williams for 15 yards. A 19-yard pass to Graham converted on third-and-5 to get just across midfield, but a blitz on third down hurried Rodgers' throw, and the Packers had to punt.
Patterson ran for 11 yards on the final play of the period.
Patriots take 17-10 lead into halftime
The Patriots started the second quarter with a 29-yard pass to WR Josh Gordon, who leaped over CB Bashaud Breeland on the sideline to make the grab. A flea-flicker on the next snap produced a 33-yard completion to Edelman to make it first-and-goal on the 10. The Packers' defense held there, and K Stephen Gostkowski was good from 28 yards out to make it 10-3 New England.
Jason Spriggs replaced Bryan Bulaga at RT for the Packers, as Bulaga was announced as having a knee injury and was questionable to return. The Packers went three-and-out.
Green Bay's defense returned the favor with a three-and-out, and the Packers took over on their own 21 after another 50-plus punt by Allen that went out of bounds.
Three straight runs from Jones picked up 20, and then a scrambling Rodgers found Williams along the sideline for 16 yards. A pass to Adams gained 9, and Williams ran for 3 and another first down at the New England 31. A 12-man penalty on the Patriots and a 10-yard pass to Adams picked up another first down, and a 10-yard run up the middle by Jones made it first-and-goal on the 2.
Three plays later, Rodgers found Adams for the score, and the Packers tied it at 10 with 4:49 left in the half.
A 6-yard run by White converted on third-and-2, and then Patterson ran for 10 yards, with S Jermaine Whitehead getting flagged for a personal foul after the play, putting the ball on the Green Bay 30. Whitehead was ejected from the game for throwing a punch.
Patterson ran for 17 more for a first down in the red zone, and then ran it 8 yards to the 5 at the two-minute warning. Patterson finished it with the 5-yard TD run, and the Patriots were back on top, 17-10, with 1:57 left in the half.
A 7-yard run and 4-yard reception by Williams moved the chains for the Packers. A 9-yard completion to Cobb set up third-and-1 from the Green Bay 45, and the Packers used their first timeout with 1:02 left. Rodgers ran a naked bootleg but fumbled the ball as he got near the sideline and lost 2 yards. The Packers punted, and the Patriots ran the clock out.
The Packers got the ball to start the second half, and on third-and-6, Rodgers found WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling for 51 yards deep over the middle to the New England 21. Jones ran twice for 14 yards for a first down at the 5, but LT David Bakhtiari was called for holding, moving the ball back to the 15.
On second down, a well-protected Rodgers found Graham for the 15-yard score, and the Packers tied it up again at 17.
Passes of 17 and 14 yards to Gordon got the Patriots across midfield, and a 21-yard catch-and-run by TE Dwayne Allen made it first-and-goal on the 9. On third down, Breeland was flagged for pass interference in the end zone, putting the ball on the 1, but the Packers' defense came up with the goal-line stand. Two runs were stopped, CB Josh Jackson batted down Brady's third-down pass, and LB Nick Perry got in Brady's face on fourth down, with his pass for Gordon in the end zone incomplete.
From their own 1, the Packers got out to the 4 but went three-and-out. P JK Scott's punt from the back of the end zone was initially muffed then recovered by Edelman, but a holding penalty on the Patriots moved them back to their own 38, for a full net of 58 yards.
The Packers' defense got a three-and-out, with LB Antonio Morrison – in for an injured Blake Martinez (ankle) sacking Brady on third down, one play after Jackson broke up a pass to Edelman. But TE Robert Tonyan roughed the punter on fourth-and-21, and the Patriots had a fresh set of downs.
But the Packers' defense held again, stopping the Patriots right near midfield, and the punt put Green Bay on its own 7.
On third-and-1 from the 16, Rodgers scrambled and found Valdes-Scantling down the sideline, and the rookie made a nice leaping catch for 24 yards. On the next snap, it was Valdes-Scantling again across the middle for 26 yards on the final play of the third quarter.
Patriots pull away for 31-17 triumph over Packers
On the first snap of the fourth quarter, Jones ran for 6 yards but got the ball knocked out by DE Lawrence Guy. CB Stephon Gilmore recovered for the Patriots, and New England got it back on its own 24.
On third-and-7, Brady found Dorsett for 17 yards and a first down. The Patriots went to their no-huddle again, and after three straight short Brady completions, they caught the Packers with a trick play. A backwards pass to Edelman was followed by a throwback pass to White, who rambled 37 yards in all down to the 2-yard line. It then took White three tries to get it in, but he did to put New England back on top, 24-17 with 10:06 left.
The Packers went three-and-out, as a second-down sideline pass for WR Equanimeous St. Brown was broken up at the last moment, and then Rodgers was sacked on third down when DL Adrian Clayborn and Trey Flowers ran a stunt on the left side.
An end-around to Edelman gained 17 to start New England's next drive, and two plays later, Brady hit Gordon for a 55-yard touchdown, and for the first time in the game, the Packers' deficit was two scores. New England led, 31-17, with 7:20 to go.
Rodgers drove the Packers out to midfield, but a fourth-down pass for Valdes-Scantling under pressure was high and incomplete, giving the ball back to the Patriots with 3:48 left.
New England ran out the clock from there.